Posts Tagged ‘new releases’

All Things Jen Lancaster

So last night, I got to meet Jen Lancaster!!  Her newest book (and her first novel), If You Were Here, just came out and she was on a book tour and stopped in Pittsburgh.  I got there a little late (thanks, traffic) so I was standing in the back of the group and couldn’t really see her during the reading/Q&A session.  If you’ve read any of her books, she seems just as awesome and hilarious as she is in her books.  And super cute and preppy-looking, too.  She was a real trouper and signed the book of every person in line (I also ended up toward the back of the line and it took me almost 2 hours to get to her!) and made sure to chit-chat and get pics with everyone who wanted one.

Jen Lancaster and Jaci

Jen's signature in my book

I am so kicking myself now, though.  See, Jen talks about in her books how when she’s around a celebrity, she starts to talk their ear off and tries to touch their hair.  Her interaction with Alec Baldwin was the best, though (read “My Fair Lazy” to find out what I’m talking about!).  But when I get in front of someone famous (or even semi-famous like a local news personality), I freeze up and can’t even get words out.  What I WISH I would have mentioned to her was: 1) that I have this blog and I’ve read all of her books within the past few months and love her, and 2) that she inspired me from her book “Such a Pretty Fat” to join a gym and get a personal trainer; if she could do it, so could I.  But…. I’m a wimp and just made some comment about the spelling of my name because she mispronounced it and said something about being glad they gave us (the ones in the back of the line) chairs.  Yes, I’m a loser.  Either way, it was really awesome to see hear her talk and get to meet her for 60 seconds.

Here are my short summaries of her books (all but the newest one are memoirs) since I don’t want this post to be TOO long (and it’s best if you read in chronological order, as listed below) –

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office“: Jen was in a high-paying executive career until the post-September 11th recession, when she was fired.  Her life goes from one extreme to the other pretty quickly and her then boyfriend, Fletch, also finds himself out of a job.  Through a number of temp jobs and some difficult and frustrating situations involving money, they come out on top and Jen lands a book deal in the process.

“Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, Or, Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next to Me?”: This one is a little more about Jen’s daily life and experience living in Chicago in a questionable neighborhood, shopping, and her thoughts on just about everything.

“Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or, Why Pie Is Not the Answer”: Jen proposes an idea for a new book: a memoir about her journey to lose weight.  Once it is accepted by her publisher, she realizes she actually has to DO it.  She hires a personal trainer named Barbie (just imagine how that turns out) and goes on a number of different diets.  This is the book that pushed me to get off the couch and join a gym and try to eat better.  At her signing last night, someone asked if she still sees Barbie (which she doesn’t, she moved away) and Jen stated that she has realized it is more enjoyable NOT to go to the gym.

“Pretty in Plaid: A Life, A Witch, and A Wardrobe, Or, The Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase”: This one’s a little different, as Jen details her clothing choices from childhood up until current day and how they’ve shaped her life.  To be honest, although I did like this book, it is not my favorite out of her collection.  I like the current snarky Jen more than hearing about her younger days.

“My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover if Not Being A Dumb Ass is the New Black, Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto“: In between working on her books, Jen has become a reality TV addict.  After spending time with a more “cultured” friend, she embarks on a quest to become more well-rounded as a person and learn about the arts and ethnic dining, which she calls her “Jennaissance”.

Don’t pay attention to the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I agree that maybe she’s not everyone’s taste, but Jen Lancaster is freakin’ hilarious.  She’s snarky, sarcastic, snotty, and sometimes inappropriate, but she sure is entertaining.  She tends to say and do those things that you think in your head but would never actually do.  Need some good beach reads for this summer?  Pick up some of her books.  You might get some looks when you start laughing out loud while reading them, but it’s worth it.  Her books are a “guilty pleasure”, some would say.

I’m looking forward to reading her newest book and will blog about it when I’m done!

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Being able to pre-order new releases before they come out on the Kindle is pretty sweet.  It’s nice because you don’t pay for the book until it is automatically delivered to your Kindle on release day so you can pre-order books months in advance and not spend all of that money all at once.  I couldn’t wait to read Kristin Hannah’s newest book that just came out a few weeks ago.

Night Road” is told in chunks of time.  It starts out in 2000 when twin teenagers Mia and Zach are entering high school.  The twins are inseparable, even though they are somewhat different: Zach plays sports and is quite popular; Mia is quiet, shy, and doesn’t really have her own set of friends outside of Zach’s.  They seem to balance each other out and are quite dependent on each other.  At this same time, another girl named Lexi, an orphan who has bounced from foster home to foster home, moves into their small town in Washington to be taken in by her great aunt who she has never met before.  Lexi is a bit of a loner herself and on the first day of high school, Lexi and Mia meet during lunch and quickly become best friends.  Judy, Mia and Zach’s mother, has initial concerns about Lexi (her family history, background, etc.) since  their family is quite well-to-do.  Judy is also worried that Lexi will use Mia to get to Zach, which is what happened with another friend of Mia’s in the past.

Fast forward a few years: all this time, Lexi has had a secret crush on Zach but hasn’t done anything about it due to Judy’s concerns.  After a party, Lexi comes on to Zach and he later reveals that he’s had feelings for her the whole time, too.  As Lexi and Zach begin a relationship, and after Mia and Judy’s initial shock wears off, the three teens become as close as ever.  Mia and Zach are both accepted into USC for college, while Lexi can only afford to go to the community college.  Zach doesn’t want to leave Lexi and wants to stay behind in Washington with her, but Mia is too scared to go off to college by herself.

All three kids go to the big graduation celebration party held by one of their classmates at the end of the year.  They drink at the party, even though they promised Judy they wouldn’t.  When it’s time to leave and all three are drunk, Zach and Mia are too afraid to call their mother for a ride even though Judy said they can always call instead of driving after drinking.  What happens next will change everyone’s lives…

I hate leaving you with a cliche cliffhanger like that but that’s really all I can say without giving major spoilers.   I have a habit of not reading the book jacket/summary for authors I like so I had no clue what was going to happen in this book so even up to this point, everything was a surprise to me.

I’ve enjoyed all of Kristin Hannah‘s other books so far but this one was really captivating.  There is so much that happens in the book (so much more after I stopped my summary above) but it’s easy to digest because she breaks it into chunks of years over a decade or so with gaps in between.  I will tell you right now that I almost cried a number of times while reading this but held it in because I was reading it while sitting in the waiting area at the mechanic while getting my car worked on and there were other people around.  The characters were really realistic and the story really draws you in.  I found myself siding with certain characters over others.

I know it’s not summer yet, but if you have any spring vacations coming up and you don’t mind an emotional, potentially tear-jerking book, add this to your reading list.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has been one of my favorite authors for the past few years now and in fact I’ve blogged about two other of her books here.  I noticed several days ago while browsing around in the Kindle bookstore that she had a new novel out as of March 1.  This one is a little unique… a CD is apparently included with the hard cover/paperback versions and a digital download of a CD accompanies the ebook version (however, the Kindle doesn’t  support that so it pointed me toward the publisher’s website where I could go to hear the songs).  I’ll be honest – I haven’t actually listened to the music yet, but it is supposed to go along with the different chapters of the book (one song per chapter) to fit the mood/feeling of each chapter and situation.

Sing You Home” is about a music therapist named Zoe and her landscaper-slash-surfer husband, Max.  Zoe works with many types of clients in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to use music to help them work through different issues.  Zoe and Max have infertility issues and have been trying to have a baby for years but have suffered multiple miscarriages and now, after several IVF treatments, a stillbirth.  While Zoe wants to try again one more time since she’s reaching the age of 40, Max has had it and can’t handle (or afford) another round of IVF and asks for a divorce.  After the divorce, Zoe tries to make some new female friends and quickly becomes close with Vanessa, a guidance counselor at the high school where she’s done some therapy.

Zoe doesn’t realize at first, but Vanessa is a lesbian.  As they spend more time together hanging out as friends, they both realize that they care much more for each other than friends.  Zoe admits that she never had this type of connection with Max the entire time they were married.  They become a couple, and after several months of dating, they visit the neighboring state of Massachusetts and officially get married, although it’s not recognized in their home state of Rhode Island.  After their marriage, they talk about children and Zoe remembers that she has three frozen embryos from her last round of IVF.  Although Zoe has had a hysterectomy and can no longer have children, Vanessa is able to carry a child.

The problem is that after the divorce, Max was taken under the wing of a local pastor of a popular church and has developed strong religious views.  He is not approving of Zoe’s new lifestyle.  When Zoe asks for his permission for her and Vanessa to use the remaining embryos, Max does not want their children raised in a lesbian household and instead wants to give the embryos to his brother and sister-in-law, who also suffer from fertility issues.  What follows is a lawsuit to prevent Zoe from using the embryos and a media circus when it comes to this controversial topic.

Some of Jodi Picoult’s other books have definitely discussed controversial issues but this one is probably the most controversial that I’ve read from her.  I’ve seen very mixed reviews on this book but I like to form my own opinion rather than relying on others.  I’m not going to get into how I personally feel about these topics because that’s not what this blog is about and you can decide on your own if this book is for you.  All I will say is that I was drawn into the story and didn’t want to put the book (actually, my Kindle) down.  I could really imagine the characters as real people and Picoult did a good job of getting the reader to feel their emotions.

If anyone does check out the music that goes with the book (or reads the book while listening to the music), let me know how it is.  I’m sure I’ll go listen to it at some point.

One Hit Wonder by Charlie Carillo

I wrote about Charlie Carillo’s other book, “Raising Jake” a few months back.  He had actually found my blog post and commented on it and mentioned that he had another book coming out in the fall.  I looked for it on Amazon recently and was disappointed to see it was only out in paperback.  A week or so later, I checked again and it was available for the Kindle.  Yay!

In “One Hit Wonder“, Mickey DeFalco is a washed up former pop star.  He had a hit song out in 1988 called “Sweet Days” that he wrote about Lynn, his sweetheart that he met when they were in high school.  He was head over heels in love with Lynn, the daughter of the local fire chief and hero who once rescued a boy from a burning building.  Mickey and Lynn spent most of that summer together until one night, Lynn was acting strange and the next day, Mickey woke up to found that Lynn ran away from home.  And never came back.

The song was written, Mickey was discovered by a classmate’s father who was a manager for a record company, and he became a huge star almost overnight.  After the 15 minutes of fame wore off, Mickey was broke (his quickie marriage and divorce to the co-star of the very short-lived TV show based on his song cost him half of his fortune) and homeless.  After living in LA for 18 or so years, Mickey had nowhere else to go but back home to Queens.

When Mickey returns home, he takes the same job he had back in high school – mowing lawns.  Mickey starts to redevelop the awkward relationship with his parents and starts to bond with his father in a way that he never had before.  He recounts some situations that put him into the mess that his life currently is, while always wondering what happened to Lynn; he’s still in love with her.

I thought that this was a fantastic read.  Like Carillo’s other book, it is a great book for either men or women to read.  Mickey seems like such a realistic character and you know that there are other one hit wonders (or 15-minutes-of-famers) out there that are back living with their parents and working a minimum wage job.  The book took some unexpected turns that kept me turning the page (or clicking the “next page” button on the Kindle, whatever).  I can only hope that Charlie Carillo plans to release another book next year!

Oh, and also, there was a very very very minor character mentioned in the book that has the same Polish last name as me.  I got really excited when I saw that.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

I’m not sure how I missed this new one that came out at the beginning of September, but I did.  I would have downloaded it right away otherwise.  I really love Nicholas Sparks’ novels.  In fact, his one book, “The Guardian“, is basically the book that got me reading again after going through a reading drought all through school.

In “Safe Haven”, Katie, a pretty young girl in her late 20′s, arrives in a small seaside North Carolina town.  She’s new to the area but is able to get a job as a waitress and finds a rental house in a secluded area away from the main part of town.  She is trying to keep to herself and just work and survive, but she’s drawn into a friendship with her new next door neighbor, Jo, who also just has moved in.  Katie learns a little bit about the town from Jo, particularly about Alex, the owner of a grocery/general store in town that she’s been frequenting.

Alex is handsome, friendly, and has two adorable kids.  Katie is typically on the quiet side when she goes into his store, but Alex tries to talk to her and notices that Katie starts opening up when interacting with his daughter.  One day while Katie is shopping, Alex’s son who was fishing off of the dock behind the store falls into the water.  While Alex jumps in to rescue him, Katie comforts his daughter.  This situation helps to bond Katie to Alex and his family and she finds herself getting in deeper and deeper and developing feelings for all of them.

The problem is, Katie is running.  Katie had escaped a horrible life back up north with an abusive husband.  She randomly chose this small town because she knew that he would have a difficult time finding it.  Katie has purposely tried to not develop friendships or feelings for anyone in the event that she has to pack up and leave immediately if her husband finds her.  She struggles with her developing feelings toward Alex, not wanting to hurt him or the kids.  She finally does admit that she’s falling for Alex and isn’t going to let her past get in the way of their relationship, although what has happened in the past always comes back to haunt…

I really really really (yes, three reallys) liked this book.  I don’t know if I’ve been disappointed by any of Nicolas Sparks’ books (only the movie versions), but I just really liked this one.  I HAVE heard this same story in other books (I know I’ve read other books by other authors with a very similar plot), but the way he tells it is just better.  More romantic.  And I am going to admit that I cried.  Very few books can make me cry, but Nicholas Sparks books often do.  Not till the end, though.

If you’ve read and liked any of Nicholas Sparks’ other books, you must go out and pick this one up (or download it, get it out of a library, whatever you do to obtain books!).  I just hope they don’t make it into a movie because I think it would totally ruin it.  I’m still mad that they casted Miley Cyrus (*gag*) as the lead in “The Last Song“.  I refuse to watch that one.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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